Haiti and the long table, a second fundraiser

•January 24, 2010 • 7 Comments

I’ve always thought it would be cool to have an absurdly long dining table. Something that could be used to host a ton of people for a meal, with folks slowing down to spend time with one another and savor the community of a shared dining experience… a table so long that would push your understanding of the breadth of your community.

There’s something magical that happens when people gather just to have a meal together. The food tastes better, the conversations are richer, and time just seems to melt away… in that moment, the world feels a little smaller, a little closer.

LaV and I had a chance to host a meal for a “long table” this weekend for eight of our Seattle friends and two new friends in town for the weekend from the Bay Area. This was the largest group of people we’ve hosted for a Fishes+Loaves meal… we had to create an actual “long table” by putting two tables end to end in order to fit everyone in.

Each of these ten individuals participated in this meal to raise money for One Day’s Wages’ Haiti Relief and Rebuild Fund. And thanks to their enormous generosity, we were able to raise another $1,850! Combined with last week’s event, that’s a total of $2,950 over just two meals! Just a drop in the bucket for a nation whose need is extraordinary, but it’s encouraging to know that these funds are going to much needed relief efforts on the ground in Haiti right now.

This was the menu for the evening:

j cuvee 20, strawberry

hamachi crudo
beet foam, meyer lemon zest, greens

2007 catalina sounds, sauvignon blanc

“ssam gyup sal”
coffee-cured pork belly, perilla, carrot, pickled daikon, nori paste, cilantro

ozeki sake, warm

miso-marinated black cod
baby bok choi mui, carrot

2006 efeste, ceidleigh syrah

syrah-braised oxtail
celery root risotto, chevre, beetroot “gastrique”

meyer lemon tart
chocolate, mint oil, cream

And some photos…

Much appreciation to Jeremy W., Melissa, Rebecca, Jeremy A., Jessica, Joe, Darwin, Carol, and new friends Matt and Jen for participating in this meal and for your generosity! Thanks to you, the community we enjoyed around this “long table” extended out, in a small way, to those in Haiti who are searching for shelter, medical attention, comfort, and care.

Here is a video from Derek Sciba of World Concern (one of the partner organizations receiving funds from One Day’s Wages) providing an update on the organization’s current relief efforts and strategies for the disaster response. If you are looking for a way to contribute funds to recovery, relief and rebuilding efforts in Haiti, please consider the One Day’s Wages Haiti Relief and Rebuild Fund, or any of a number of reputable nonprofits working to assist in Haiti.

Lastly, we hope to continue hosting Fishes+Loaves meals for a variety of different causes throughout the year. If you are interested in being on our email list for notification of upcoming meals, please send an email to us at fishesloaves@yahoo.com and follow us on Twitter (@fishesloaves).


A fundraising meal for Haiti

•January 17, 2010 • 6 Comments

This week, LaV and I tried to think of what we could do to help raise money for organizations participating in the disaster relief and rebuilding efforts. The outpouring of support from all over the world has been encouraging to witness, but the need is so significant.

According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Haitian emergency is the “most serious humanitarian crisis faced by the United Nations” in decades, surpassing those caused by the Asian tsunami, the recent Pakistan earthquake and cyclone Nargis in Burma. In the words of Stephanie Bunker of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

“[T]he civil service, police, emergency services, all the organisations which would normally have key roles in responding to a major disaster were affected…. Haiti is very poor. It just does not have the resources or the money to respond to an emergency. What capacity it did have to respond was completely knocked out. This earthquake hit a country which was already barely functional.”

After speaking with a few friends, we quickly threw together a fundraising dinner Saturday night. The idea behind the meal was simple. We would serve a four course meal to a small group of six people in exchange for a $50 contribution per person to One Day’s Wages, a local Seattle nonprofit (I serve on the Advisory Board) raising funds for two organizations: World Concern and Partners in Health, organizations doing relief and rebuilding work in Haiti.

World Concern has worked in Haiti since 1978 and serves roughly 125,000 Haitians annually. Their office in Port Au Prince is still standing and they are engaged in emergency relief work right now.

Partners in Health has been working on the ground in Haiti for over 20 years. Their mission is to bring modern medical care to poor communities in nine countries around the world, including Haiti.

We figured that with six participants (plus corporate charitable gift matching), we’d be able to raise $600… a small amount in the grand scheme of things, but every well placed contribution counts.

Here was the evening’s menu:

kir royal

tender pork belly salad
coffee-cured pork belly, apple, fennel, nuac cham

2001 ockfen bockstein riesling, von othegraven

seared scallop
carrot nage, fried shallot

traditional paella
chorizo, shrimp, mussel, clam, squid

2002 pierre bouree fils, beaune, “les epenottes” 1er cru

chocolate bread pudding
ice cream, fresh walnuts

And a few of the pictures:

Planning and preparing the meal was a blast. But the best part of the evening was seeing this group of friends come together to generously donate to One Day’s Wage’s fundraising efforts.

Later that evening, after we’d said our goodbyes and cleaned up, I looked at the contributions and realized that these folks had given above and beyond what we had requested. We were able to raise a total of $1,100 (corporate matching included) between just these six people, almost double our goal!

A HUGE thanks goes out to our generous diners: Megan, Carla, David, Lena, Brie and Aaron. You guys rock.

Our hearts continue to think of and pray for those who are suffering in Haiti. If you are looking for a way to contribute funds to recovery, relief and rebuilding efforts in Haiti, please consider the One Day’s Wages Haiti Relief and Rebuild Fund, or any of a number of reputable nonprofits working to assist in Haiti.

We’ll be looking for more opportunities to host additional fundraising meals in the near future.

Thinking of Haiti

•January 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Port-au-Prince destroyed. Unknown thousands of people killed. Survivors at risk without access to food, shelter or clean water. Devastation everywhere.

Yesterday, LaV taught me the Hebrew translation of Psalm 121:1-2…

Esa eynai el heharim mayayin yavo ezri ezri mayeem adonai oseh shayim va’aretz. (“I lift up my eyes to the mountains. What is the source of my help? My help comes from God who made heaven and earth.”)

Haiti, you are in my prayers. Plans for a fundraising meal are in the works, maybe as soon as this weekend if everything comes together.

If you’re looking for an organization accepting donations to support relief efforts, check out One Day’s Wages, a local Seattle non-profit organization that is raising money for World Concern, whose team was already established in Haiti and is currently assisting with efforts to provide clean water to survivors.

breakfast and blessings at Nickelsville

•April 29, 2009 • 5 Comments

“Homeless people are not bad people…”

A simple sentiment, handwritten on a sheet of college-ruled binder paper, part of an article/testimonial by M, one of the residents of Nickelsville. “I just want people to know that we’re not that different from them,” she would explain to me over breakfast…


Oh right… breakfast. Last Saturday, a group of us had the opportunity to provide a meal for the folks living at Nickelsville, an organized, self-regulated encampment currently located at the Byrn Mawr United Methodist Church in South Seattle. Nickelsville came about as as a response to Seattle’s programs which were failing to meet the needs of the homeless.  Instead of transitional and temporary shelters, Nickelsville provides a sense of stability… a safe place with rules against alcohol and drugs, with 24-hour security, with people committed to the vision of the community.  For more information on Nickelsville, see this article on CNN.com.

The idea for the breakfast was born of an annual project by our church to think of ways to be a “good neighbor.” This year, a small group of us decided to reach out to the Nickelsville community and see if we could provide them with a warm pancake breakfast. They graciously accepted, and our planning began.


But how do you make a pancake breakfast for 75 people, without cooking facilities on-site? All of the cooking would have to be done beforehand, and hopefully kept warm in serving tins. We split up into teams, and somehow managed to cook 300 pancakes, 320 strips of bacon and 240 links of turkey sausage, and meet up at the site at 8:30 a.m. with two huge tubs of hot coffee (thanks to a little Seattle boutique coffee maker) and some fresh fruit.


The bacon and sausage disappeared with impressive speed, hot coffee (some sipped, some quaffed) bringing warmth on a lightly chilly morning. Even more striking, though, was the warmth with which the Nickelodeons (as they call themselves) opened their community to us, welcomed us to be among them, and engaged us with real, human interaction. Collectively, we heard dozens of stories of struggle and hardship… but even stronger was the sense of pride, hope and dignity running through the community. This is a group of people with purpose and intention.

On one level, I absolutely agree with M—the folks at Nickelsville aren’t that different at all. These were folks I could talk to and joke around with, whose weathered hands I could shake, whose smiles warmed my soul… individuals who have hit upon hard times, some the victims of circumstances wholly out of their control… circumstances that would have crushed my spirit. And then I realize that maybe we’re not that similar… that, in fact, these folks have been through far more than I could ever bear—hard core drug addiction, unresolvable medical situations, violence, loneliness—and somehow come through those challenges with a positive glow of hope and satisfaction in each day’s triumphs. We came to try and give them some food and encouragement; I left feeling like the one who was fed and encouraged.

“Would you pull M (her husband) aside and pray for him?” she asked me gently, squinting as the sun began to pierce though the clouds. “He’s doing well, but you know, it’s tough…”

It would be my pleasure, absolutely.

For another perspective on the morning, read this excellent post by KS.

Day 5 – making (a lot of) bacon for the homeless

•April 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So today wraps up the final day of meals for the Hunger Action Week challenge. I’ve just gotten home from a marathon session of hanging out with the guys and making insane amounts of bacon for tomorrow’s pancake breakfast for the homeless at the Nickelsville community. Making bacon for 75-100 people is a much larger endeavor than it appears at first glance… but it’s a lot easier when it’s done with 9 of your friends over grilled brats, beer and poker.

I’m a bit tired at the moment because it’s pretty late, but today’s budget looks great–in large part because of the leftover curry which I had for lunch.

I’ll blog about the breakfast at Nickelsville after we’ve had a chance to serve the meal and get to know the people living there a bit better. For now, I need to get to bed… pancake-making commences in 4 1/2 hours…

Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds – $0.50
milk – $0.50

leftover Japanese curry and rice – $0.00(!!)

1.5 bratwursts – $1.19
1 bun – $0.31
chips – $0.50
1 beer – $1.25

(I’m not going to include the scotch we had because dinner was officially over, and it was really part of the poker game… I hope that isn’t cheating…)

Day 4: An open challenge to give

•April 23, 2009 • 5 Comments

Hunger Action Week is almost over–what a short week it has been, despite my constantly growling stomach in the first couple of days. The days when I’ve had the time to really think about and plan my meals, I’ve been able to eat nutritious and satisfying food while staying under the budget for the day; but when I haven’t had time for planning, it’s gotten pretty random (e.g., cereal for lunch).

Tonight’s dinner is an old, reliable standby that reminds me of dinners from my childhood: japanese style curry over steamed rice. The curry packets are relatively inexpensive (for the volume of curry you can produce), and the curry lasts for 1-2 days, getting tastier each day. Better still, you can add lots of fresh vegetables to the curry and make a substantial meal without too much work or expense.  And there’s enough left over for lunch tomorrow…

An open challenge to give
While I don’t typically spend extravagant amounts of money on our weekly food budget (particularly in this economy), I certainly spend more than $7/day, especially when factoring meals in restaurants during the average week. This challenge is leaving me with a decent amount of leftover money that would normally have been budgeted for food. For those of you who are doing this challenge, I expect you’re noticing the same thing.

So I offer up a new, open challenge:  If you’ve been participating in the Hunger Action Week, getting by on $7/day or less, and you’ve realized some savings in your weekly budget as a result, won’t you consider donating that difference directly to the United Way of King County and their efforts to address hunger issues in this region? You can give by clicking here. I’ll be putting in my contribution on Saturday morning, after I’ve tallied my week’s totals.

Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds (I am going to need a break from this cereal next week!)- $0.50
milk – $0.50

two slices of bread from home – $0.20
chicken, spinach, tomato and cheese – $1.73

1 small russet potato – $0.34
2 carrots – $0.32
1 medium yellow onion – $0.27
1/2 bell pepper – $0.69
1 chicken thigh – $0.73
1 cup white rice – $0.18
1/2 packet of japanese curry paste – $1.29
2 tablespoons vegetable oil – $0.24

Day 3 – pasta, a reliable friend

•April 22, 2009 • 3 Comments

Getting by on $7/day is definitely doable, and you can eat quite nicely if you are thoughtful about your food choices, like in this post by one of my favorite Seattle bloggers.

The thing that surprises me the most about this challenge, however, has been how this simple limitation has really brought into focus the luxury of being able to make food choices without having to worry about cost. That luxury is something that I enjoy every day, but probably take for granted most of the time. I sense it now in the cravings I have… like a perfectly buttery and flaky almond croissant from Besalu for breakfast, a steaming bowl of pho for lunch, pristine sushi from Miyabi for dinner… or how about just a glass of syrah from aMaurice. But then I think about how meaningless those choices are compared to the situation of a person or family who might not know where their next meal will be coming from…

So with that in mind, I dug into my reliably tasty but simple breakfast of Honey Bunches of Oats (with almonds of course). Hunger pangs came early again, so I headed to the cafeteria and put together a small plate of chicken, tomato, spinach and shredded cheese from the salad bar. That with two slices of bread I brought from home and I had a nifty little makeshift sandwich (I still haven’t had time to hit the grocery store for lunch supplies).


I knew exactly what I wanted for dinner.  Pasta.  As in, spaghetti and clams… made without boiling any water… my current favorite method for cooking dry pasta.  Since I’ve got some budget constraints, some limitations applied.  Fewer clams, no wine to deglaze the pan, no Parmigiano-Reggiano… but in the end, still a substantial, satisfying dinner.

Now, I just need to figure out how to incorporate some beverages other than water into this week.

Last quick note: As a result of some fortuitous timing, some friends and I will be providing a pancake breakfast for the homeless residents of Nickelsville this Saturday… a cool way to end this Hunger Action Week. It’s going to be a pretty big endeavor… the plan is to make 300 pancakes, 300 strips of bacon and 200 links of sausage. We had a great planning meeting last night, and most of the supplies were picked up this afternoon… hopefully, everything will turn out great!

Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds – $0.50
milk – $0.50

two slices of bread from home – $0.20
chicken, spinach, tomato and cheese – $1.79

dried spaghetti – $0.30
4 live manilla clams – $1.44
1 garlic clove – $0.10
1/2 shallot – $0.25
1 roma tomato – $0.47
2 tablespoons of frozen peas – $0.12
pinch of red pepper flakes – $0.03
2 tablespoons olive oil – $0.54